Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Here's Your Double Standard | Castro on the "Invincible" Dem... »

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sierra Club Challenges Roads/Transit Ballot Title

posted by on August 29 at 14:09 PM

The local chapter of the Sierra Club has filed a challenge to the language describing the roads/transit measure on the ballot in November. Basically, the Sierra Club is saying the language that will go on the ballot itself and the explanatory statement that will be included in voters’ guides is written to unfairly prejudice voters in favor of the measure. Among other things, the club is alleging:

• That the ballot language doesn’t accurately describe how the roads and transit improvements would be funded, and for how long the taxes that pay for the package would last.

• That the ballot language implies that voting “no” on the package would stop light rail that’s already funded from moving forward. In fact, the package would fund 50 new miles of light rail.

• That the language inaccurately describes the roads part of the package as “replacing vulnerable bridges, improving safety, and increasing capacity on state and local roads to link major education, employment, and retail centers.” The Sierra Club says this is false because the package fully replaces only one bridge (the South Park bridge over the Duwamish River), only addresses safety in the context of increasing road capacity, and doesn’t specifically link major centers.

• That the explanatory statement does not explain what will be built, when it will be built, how much it will cost, and what taxes will pay for it. The Club wants the explanatory statement to include the total number of new road miles that would be built by the measure, and the total cost of the package, including operations and maintenance and inflation. Including everything the Sierra Club wants to include would increase the stated cost of the package from $17.8 billion to $47.7 billion.

• That the entire ballot measure violates King County’s single-subject rule, which limits all ordinances to a single subject.

The Sierra Club will also be back in court Friday on its earlier challenge to the makeup of the committee that will write the voters’ guide statement against the package, which is made up entirely of anti-transit stalwarts, including Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, Jr.

RSS icon Comments

1

This is pretty late in the game for the Sierra Club to be doing this...given that the ballot language was finalized about 9 months ago.

Posted by Late in the game | August 29, 2007 2:17 PM
2

You can't fix stoopid.

Posted by Will/HA | August 29, 2007 2:21 PM
3

Why do you bold your sentences in that way?

Posted by Bold | August 29, 2007 2:27 PM
4

Bold, are you suggesting that there's another way to do bolding? Are you suggesting that there's a better way to do it? What are you concerned about?

Posted by N in Seattle | August 29, 2007 2:35 PM
5

I hope that bolding was done in an environmentally friendly way.

Posted by Will/HA | August 29, 2007 2:38 PM
6

Heh!

"No animals were harmed in the making of this bolded sentence."

Posted by N in Seattle | August 29, 2007 2:41 PM
7

I like using bold. It's like saying, "this part of what I wrote is more important than the other stuff I wrote. That's why it's bold."

Posted by Will/HA | August 29, 2007 2:49 PM
8

This is not a rhetorical question but an actual question for which I'd like to see an answer... I'm wondering to what extent Sierra Club was at the table while Sound Transit 2 and RTID were being crafted in recent years. To the extent that they were, I'm wondering how much they were able to influence those packages.

Posted by cressona | August 29, 2007 3:08 PM
9

Cres-

They were not. Want to know who was? Transportation Choices Coalition, who are supporting ST/RTID.

Posted by Will/HA | August 29, 2007 3:16 PM
10

Oh, give it a rest, Sierra Club has a lot more members and is far more trusted by the public.

I have NEVER seen such a lopsided decision by Sierra Club ever - usually it's a lot closer, but no matter how you run the numbers - global warming emissions, net transit, pollution, fish bykill from highway construction, and wetlands removal - the RTID/ST2 plan is bad for people and all living things.

Sad that it was 21 for, 10 against at the King County Dems last night to back RTID/ST2.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 29, 2007 3:29 PM
11

With much less, TCC has done much, much more to make the ST/RTID package what it is today. It used to be 12 billion in roads, MAYBE 800 million (if that) in transit investment. Since 2003, no group has gone to the mattresses like TCC in fighting for transit investment and against freeway expansion. Sierra Club, with their numeric superiority, have traded on their legacy for too long.

Posted by Will/HA | August 29, 2007 3:45 PM
12

the ballot title wasn't set until mid-August.

Posted by MichaelW | August 29, 2007 3:53 PM
13

It's "gone to the mat" as in the mat that you would fall on in boxing knockout. Not "gone to the mattresses" as in the mattresses your group's members would be fucked on if they were going to fuck their way to a more environmentally sound transportation policy.

Posted by elenchos | August 29, 2007 4:24 PM
14

Or, "gone to the mattresses" in a "Godfather" sense.

Posted by Will/HA | August 29, 2007 4:41 PM
15

There's little point comparing the relative contributions that the Sierra Club, TCC, and other enviro groups made in shaping the RTID/ST package. These groups are structured differently and allocate resources differently. TCC's staff work the legislature very hard on a fairly narrow range of issues -- promoting transit and other alternative transportation. The SC's one lobbyist pushes a broader platform, and other staff work on state-wide campaigns to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, elect state and national candidates, etc.

So it's arguably true that no enviro group did more to shape this package than TCC -- and they did accomplish positive changes. It's also true that the Sierra Club has done more to incite public determination to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and by extension, build a case against new highways.

TCC plays "inside baseball" on transportation issues more assertively than the Club, and their strength in that area has prevented a lot of bad legislation. On the other hand, the Club's reliance on a wide body of volunteers to set policy gives it the independence to be upfront when its leaders think the public is getting a bad deal. That's what they did when confronted with the viaduct tunnel, and that's what they're arguing now with the RTID/ST package.

Posted by K-Full | August 29, 2007 4:45 PM
16

Thanks Sierra Club for trying to shine light on the bs of this vote.
The way ST2 is written no miles of light rail are guaranteed. When 30 miles or 25 miles are all that will be built becomes clear in 2018, what will TCC do? I know, take more ST and WashDot money and support the next round.

Posted by whatever | August 29, 2007 4:50 PM
17

Will in Seattle @10: no matter how you run the numbers - global warming emissions, net transit, pollution, fish bykill from highway construction, and wetlands removal - the RTID/ST2 plan is bad for people and all living things.

It's true that our region will contribute much more to global warming and cause much more environmental damage locally if we:

  1. Build 50 miles of new, largely grade-separated light rail compared to doing nothing.
  2. Replace the 520 bridge with a much more transit-friendly bridge with tolls and HOV lanes compared to doing nothing.
  3. Replace the bridges and on-ramps and do the other fixes in the RTID compared to doing nothing.
  4. And yes, build that small proportion of sprawl-inducing freeway capacity included in the RTID compared to doing nothing.

If we really want to reduce this region's contribution to global warming and save the local environment, we should fight any transportation package that comes along, we should try to keep people from moving here, and we should try to make the business climate more hostile in hopes that Microsoft and other employers will decide to move elsewhere. And a few more "Will in Seattle" types on our political scene wouldn't hurt either.

Hey, Buffalo, New York, contributes a heck of a lot less to global warming than New York City does.

Well, unfortunately our region does not exist in a vacuum. And all those people who otherwise would have moved here if ST2/RTID had passed, or who otherwise would have stayed if ST2/RTID had passed, will not just magically disappear off the face of the earth along with their progeny. No, they will go somewhere else, and that somewhere else by and large will be a lot less environmentally friendly than the region we could have had with ST2 and RTID.

Of course, I expect this kind of "big picture" thinking to be just as lost on the Mike O'Brien, Kevin Fullerton crowd as the concept of weighing "what comes next" as a factor in making decisions (rather than as a rationalization after making decisions) is lost of this crowd.

Posted by cressona | August 29, 2007 5:01 PM
18

@ 16

I don't know how you come up with that. It's true, the EXACT length of the light rail is a soft number, but that's for some good reasons.

The East Link money could stretch all the way to downtown Redmond if the money is available. If Bellevue wants a tunnel through their downtown, light rail might only go to Overlake.

That said, ST has been super conservative on what they promise to voters. They learned their lesson from the late 90's.

Besides, with a 20 year build-out, we have lots of chances for more federal money.

Posted by Will/HA | August 29, 2007 5:06 PM
19

whatever:

Thanks Sierra Club for trying to shine light on the bs of this vote. The way ST2 is written no miles of light rail are guaranteed. When 30 miles or 25 miles are all that will be built becomes clear in 2018, what will TCC do? I know, take more ST and WashDot money and support the next round.

Oh, whatever, so you would prefer things the way the Seattle Monorail Project did it? Number of miles of monorail guaranteed: 14. Number of miles of monorail actually built: 0. Well, whatever, considering you're a big fan of distributing magical non-polluting, harmlessly manufactured, non-congestion-contributing hybrids in lieu of light rail, I can see why you would love to see this guarantee.

Posted by cressona | August 29, 2007 5:09 PM
20

Nice points K-Full.

On balance the arguments that the Sierra Club is putting forward in its lawsuit are shockingly close to those that the anti-rail crowd has been putting out.

The Sierra Club is protesting the makeup of the anti statement committee for not including them. Perhaps if they had been at even one of the three Sound Transit board meetings in which this was discussed (it was delayed at the request of the nutballs at CETA) then they could have had their views represented.

The Sierra Club wasn't active in any of the ST 2 public process over two years nor the RTID process. Perhaps if they were the Sierra Club vote might not have been so lopsided.

This is the equivalent of the national Sierra Club's racist immigration policies. Perhaps they need to drop the think tank approach and rejoin the real world.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | August 29, 2007 5:20 PM
21

I love it when "whatever" and Will in Seattle agree. Then you know they have both lost touch with reality.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | August 29, 2007 5:42 PM
22

The Sierra Club wrestled with that immigration issue and decided by a national chapter vote that keeping brown people out of the U.S. so we can continue burning through our resources as fast as possible was not a solution to our ecological, or any other problem.

Cressona, HERE'S the big picture:

1. The planet (or its ability to support humanity) is dying.

2. TCC is smiling as they help dig your region's grave. They should be up on Aurora selling that ass to paying customers.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | August 29, 2007 6:21 PM
23

Grant - TCC already sold "that ass to paying customers."

Guess how much Sound Transit pays them a year? It's all public record.

Oh, and coincidentally, they're being the lead cheerleader for the rtid campaign.


Posted by otterpop | August 29, 2007 6:50 PM
24

Funny that Grant Cogswell should join our little discussion.

For Grant to criticize Transportation Choices Coalition for being mercenary is a bit like William Hung criticizing Kelly Clarkson for being too polished a singer. If TCC is the poster child for transportation activists that have curried favor with the establishment, then Grant Cogswell is the poster child for transportation activists that have thumbed their nose at the establishment.

Y'know, if I'd wanted to kill any hopes of building a modern monorail in Seattle, I would have tried to get monorail to be treated like a joke. People should go back and read some of that well-thought-out monorail legislation Grant and Dick Falkenbury managed to craft. Yeah, the Grant Cogswell approach has worked out pretty well so far. (Grant, I'm just thankful your friend Cary Moon didn't take your approach, or we'd probably be looking at a new viaduct about now.)

...

OK, having taken my shot at Grant, I will allow that I may not be entirely comfortable looking at TCC's institutional donor list, and I reserve the right to call them sell-outs at some point in the future. So far, though, I've seen them pushing Olympia for transit, not pushing for Olympia.

Posted by cressona | August 29, 2007 7:46 PM
25

Cressona, nice to talk.

If you agree that we must drastically cut GHG in the next two decades could you please explain how a project that doesn't plan to start building for a decade and won't be finished for 2 decades or more will help in this effort?

Yes, I believe that reducing emissions from vehicles by decreasing GHG from their tailpipes would be the best approach.

You write "magical non-polluting, harmlessly manufactured, non-congestion-contributing hybrids" - pure electrics exist today and more are coming. Instead of investing in any amount of LR ST ends up building ($23B YOE, probably $15B current value) we could build wind, geo thermal, tidal, solar and other clean electrical generation.

ST2 will not reduce congestion but if they were able to get people to Overlake quickly it will result in induced sprawl. I care more about stopping sprawl than reducing congestion.

Yes, making things takes some energy. For example building rail, roads, trains and all infrastructure takes considerable energy in the form of burning petroleum.

GM plans the Volt in three years, Toyota will have plug-in hybrids soon, Teslamotors plans models in lower price ranges, another manufacturer is going to use the Tesla battery for their car and many more very high mileage cars are coming soon, but if you want to call them magical that is your perogative.

If you want to argue that GW can't be stopped and should be a low priority when making public investments that would be fine.

Posted by whatever | August 29, 2007 8:01 PM
26

Whatever, if I had time to give a serious answer, I'd explain (yet again) about this logical fallacy you've apparently fallen in love with for its sheer cleverness. But all I'll say for now is, come on, you give about as much of a crap about global warming as Emory Bundy does.

Keep working on that magical potion that will cause electric vehicles to be manufactured with zero impact on the environment.

Posted by cressona | August 29, 2007 8:24 PM
27

The Sierra Club is a little late to the game. The ballot title was introduced in Olympia in January. It was passed in April. It was considered by the County Councils in June. These guys are a bunch of amatuers.

It is well known that the Sierra Club had no involvement whatsoever in shaping this plan. They didn't deliver any of the great enviro gains that TCC and Futurewise got through great negotiations. Sierra made sent two letters to RTID and that is it. These guys don't have a clue. If this is the type of political operation we can expect for the next two months, we may reach 60 percent approval come Nov.


Posted by bill | August 29, 2007 8:42 PM
28

Cressona why so condescending and angry? You never answer the question on ST2 vis-a-vis GHG. Instead you attack and say things like I care as much as Emery, who bikes and takes transit most everywhere. But do you care about GW? If not, fine just say so. If you do, then explain how this ST2 plan helps in the next twenty years? You can't because it doesn't.

Since ST2 won't do much if anything for twenty years, how do you think most of all trips will be made? People will buy new cars for a long time. All cars will require energy to build. If we make the "magical" cars more popular and invest in clean energy, we can reduce pollution and reduce GHG sooner than later.

http://www.pluginamerica.com/

Posted by whatever | August 29, 2007 8:48 PM
29

Bill at 27: yes, the Sierra Club is a bunch of amatuers. the chapter has a small professional staff, one lobbyist, and thousands of members. Those members are pretty smart and want policies and projects that help address sprawl and global warming.

The K-Full post at 15 explains the specialization of TCC and the Sierra Club. They complement each other well.

TCC did succeed in improving RTID significantly betweeen 2002 and 2007. That does not mean that the all-or-nothing joint ballot measure deserves the support of environmental voters.

The knowledge and concern over global warming has grown significantly, even in the past year.

If global warming is like being in a hole, the first thing we should do is stop digging. but RTID digs us deeper by using the sales tax to widen limited access highways I-405, SR-520, SR-167, extends SR-509 and SR-167.

Using the sales tax for RTID was a choice of both RTID and the legislature. They knew it was politically risky. the sales tax is not only regressive, but unrelated to a household or firm's use of the roadways. The governments could have put a package forward that used better taxes. They did not.

joint roads and transit packages using the sales tax have passed recently in Phoenix, San Diego, and Denver. all three states have an income tax and are less dependent upon the sales tax.

Voting yes on RTID implies we agree that expanding those limited access highways is more important than funding maintenance, local arterials, or sidewalks. Where is WSDOT going to find the funds to maintain I-5 through Seattle, estimated to be $2 billion?

Why is it a higher priority to expand I-405 between I-90 and Renton by four un-priced general-purpose lanes than to completely fund SR-520?

The effectiveness of the 50 miles of LRT will depend on their attracting ridership. The south line appears very weak.

We should join the Sierra Club and vote no on the joint ballot measure. TCC and SC can work together in the future.

Posted by eddiew | August 29, 2007 10:32 PM
30

Cressona @17

I used to rely on this guy http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33542?issue=4227&special=1998
to avoid missing the obvious, but it's good to know there's a local source for unerring perspective.

Posted by K-Full | August 30, 2007 1:51 AM
31

eddiew (aka - Jack Wisner, a Metro service planner)

RTID is using sales tax to invest billions in new HOV lanes and transit off ramps to make your slow buses that are stuck in traffic faster and more reliable.

520 HOV lanes
Extending the Spokane Street Viaduct transit lane.
Transit off ramp from Spokane Street.
Industrial Way off ramp for transit on I-5 in South Seattle.

I could go on.

RTID is the best thing that has happened to Metro in years.

People want reliable and fast transit. Not buses stuck in traffic.

No surprise though that Jack the Metro employee wants to protect the sales tax for his agency's piggy bank.

RTID also has set asside $200 million to mitigate construction and increase transit service in key corridors.

The RTID transit/HOV program makes Metro's Transit Now initiative look like a cute van pool program among neighbors.

Posted by bill | August 30, 2007 7:39 AM
32

@11 - so you admit I'm write, Will/HA, and that it is TRUE that the RTID/ST2 package, no matter how you slice it, results in a net INCREASE in global warming emissions - and a net INCREASE in pollution - and a net INCREASE in new roads - and a net DECREASE in wetlands - and impacts Salmon and other fish. While adding more single occupancy vehicles and trucks then are offset by new transit.

So, why are you hating on Sierra Club rightfully saying that it is a BAD IDEA?

Unlike TCC, Sierra Club is about the Truth. And the Environment.

Or are you ashamed that we call you out on your hypocrisy?

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 30, 2007 10:18 AM
33

@17 - Cressona, you know you can't argue with what I say, so you argue different things.

Speak to what I said, or admit that I'm right and then present your counter-arguments, or go back to learning at the feet of your God Karl Marx Rove, he of the Big Lie and Misdirection.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 30, 2007 10:21 AM
34

oh, and @22 - thanks for agreeing, Grant.

Look, we all KNOW - in fact we have PROOF - and no, it's not online (unless you want me to hack your system for you) - that there is a Plan B for when the RTID/ST2 vote fails - to have a vote on ST2.

Why are you hating on us just telling the Truth?

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 30, 2007 10:23 AM
35

Here's the Sierra Club's Plan B:

Walk, bitches! Swim, damn you! Ride your bikes like everybody else!

Posted by ivan | August 30, 2007 12:03 PM
36

tiptoe tommy @ 20:

The Sierra Club has been very involved in the ST2 process going back to January 2005 comments on the Phase 2 scoping process. Below is a comment letter sent early this year to the ST board regarding the merging of the RTID and ST2 ballot measures. Don't be making assertions when you have no background on the topic.

Subject: Sierra Club follow-up comments on ST2

25 January 2007

Dear Boardmembers:

I write to expand upon my comments on behalf of the Sierra Club Cascade Chapter presented to you at the January 11, 2007 Sound Transit Board meeting. I’m afraid my three minutes of spoken comments did not adequately convey all the points that I intended to present to you.

The contribution of transportation sector emissions to climate change and potential impacts from climate change have prompted the Sierra Club to prioritize the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from regional transportation sources. To achieve this objective, Sierra Club supports more integrated regional transportation and land use planning, and transportation investments that are based on the twin principles of cost-effective mobility (i.e., moving people and goods rather than vehicles at the least economic cost) and the tangible reduction in GHG emissions. We call for systematic GHG emission estimates for all evaluations of specific transportation projects and regional transportation plans to help us reduce the environmental impacts from selected actions.

Sierra Club finds much to be pleased with the Sound Transit Phase 2 (ST2) package of investments. However, in applying the principles of cost-effective mobility and GHG emission reductions, we identify some areas of concern for which we hope improvements can occur prior to the Board adoption of the final ST2 proposal in spring 2007. The areas of concern can be summarized into these three points:

- Better coordination of RTID and ST2 project lists is needed, especially to prioritize RTID highway investments that improve transit and carpool mobility.
- Selected transit projects need to emphasize high ridership and cost-effective mobility in support of smart growth land use patterns consistent with regional goals.
- Revenue sources for RTID projects should not infringe on ST funding, but instead relate to use of the highway network, while users should see more explicitly the costs associated with driving.

Better coordination of RTID and ST2 projects

The ST Board should exert more influence over the RTID project selection process. It will tend to favor more environmentally favorable projects, and improve the chances of the combined ST2/RTID proposal winning support from voters in November. Consistent with Sierra Club principles, the selected RTID projects should make transit and carpools function better. We support maintenance projects over new construction, but especially favor projects that emphasize capacity for moving people and goods, rather than focusing solely on vehicles.

We need to improve mobility but do so in a manner that will reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector. The RTID funding needs to better support transit, vanpool, and carpool operations by financing construction of the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane network including direct connection ramps between HOV lanes at major intersections of our limited-access highways. Some of the important projects around the region that RTID could fund and improve mobility while encouraging a reduction in GHG emissions are:

- I-90, third phase of R8A on the bridge: This is necessary to convert the center roadway to Link LRT or rapid bus service prior to light rail;
- I-90, center access at SR-900 at downtown Issaquah: It would help East King County bus routes and build upon the Eastgate center access ramps;
- I-5, center access ramps to and from the south at S. Industrial Way: This improves South King County and Pierce County bus service especially relieving the severe a.m. peak congestion in northbound traffic. It builds upon the Federal Way ramps at S. 317th Street;
- I-5, reversible lane center access to and from the north in the University District (e.g., NE 50th Street or NE 42nd Street): This could be implemented long before Link LRT reaches Lynnwood, and help Community Transit services to better utilize the Lynnwood center access ramps;
- I-5 remaining HOV network between Everett and Tacoma: Any portion unfunded by the state nickel or 9.5 cent packages should be completed sooner using RTID as the funding mechanism;
- I-405, center freeway stops at NE 85th Street: Provides access to downtown Kirkland bus routes.
- SR-99, transit lanes and sidewalks in north Seattle and Shoreline: Heavily used corridor would benefit from RTID money to provide missing funding.

Transit Projects Emphasize High Ridership and Cost-effective Mobility

In an unconstrained world, we would love to see even more light rail than is contained in ST2. But given the fiscal reality we face, light rail must be strategically added to the region prioritizing high ridership where it can create synergies with adjacent land use patterns and promote compact, walkable neighborhoods. We identify the extension of North Link LRT to Northgate as the most important component of the light rail system proposed expansions. The high capacity which LRT provides in this corridor coupled with connections to many local bus routes has the potential to reduce significant quantities of GHG emissions through mode shift to transit and promotion of smart growth land use patterns.

But light rail cannot be everything to all users. Due to the routing of the initial segment Link LRT line on MLK Jr. Way S. for needed ridership (which we support), it is unlikely to be a favored mode for long-distance trips due to total travel time. Long-distance trips, such as between Seattle and Tacoma, do not require the all-day capacity of light rail and are better carried on Sounder and express buses operating more reliably in HOT or HOV lanes (funded by RTID as noted above). The Sounder service in the south corridor offers advantages of speed and reliability to Pierce and south King County cities along its route, and should be considered for two-way all-day operations in ST2.

The proposed extension of North Link LRT into Snohomish County attempts to serve relatively low density suburban areas without great ridership potential. Similarly to the south corridor, the intercity and inter-subarea trips are better carried on express buses using HOV lanes and direct access ramps, and commuter rail. The high capacity of light rail should be located where it will support the land use patterns and designated urban centers of the PSRC Destination 2030 plan. Instead of pushing extensions to the north and south, the ST2 light rail investments for Pierce and Snohomish Counties are better made directly in Tacoma and Everett, respectively, both of which are designated urban centers in the Puget Sound region. The proposed East Link LRT connects urban centers Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond via a defined corridor with quickly increasing density that shows ridership promise within the ST2 time frame. Therefore, this segment should be prioritized over the lengthy extensions north and south in the Board’s draft plan.

Light rail lines in both Tacoma and Everett can build upon their compact street grids and promote better land use-transportation linkages while increasing the cities’ stature as regional urban centers. Only later as local land use supports it and funding is available would the central Link LRT line be tied together with the Tacoma and Everett segments. We see the Pierce ST2 funds better spent by extending the existing light rail line to Tacoma Community College, and from the Tacoma Dome south towards PLU via the SR-7 corridor. RTID could help fund rebuilding the SR-7 right-of-way, making it much more transit friendly. The Snohomish ST2 resources should fund a starter light rail line connecting north downtown Everett with the Everett Mall area and/or the Boeing industrial complex. Ridership will be greater and the lines far more cost-effective in moving people when linking Tacoma together and connecting Everett neighborhoods, instead of building through low-density areas of south King County or south Snohomish County.

The Sierra Club position in favor of cost effective mobility that promotes sustainable, people-oriented land use patterns directs benefits to each ST sub-area improving the chance of success with voters. Building light rail at both ends of the region yields tangible benefits sooner to the urban centers – Tacoma and Everett – that have compatible infrastructure in place. We reduce the impetus for further sprawl that will be realized to be unsustainable as petroleum prices rise and effects of climate change become more apparent.

Revenue Sources for Highway Network Should Relate to Use

Our sales tax rate is already high and slated to increase further in the central Puget Sound region. The highway projects of the RTID should not be funded at all by the general sales tax, but rely on user fees related to the rate of use of the roadway network. Likely sources include tolling, taxes on long-term parking (both free and priced), a regional add-on to the cents per gallon levy or sales tax on gasoline, sales tax on other auto-related goods, and an odometer tax, which could be related to a vehicle's weight as well.

User fees would be better in at least four ways. They would:
- be fairer, taxing households and firms in proportion to their use of the roadways;
- be more efficient, as they would send a price signal to roadway users;
- correlate with the environmental burden caused by motorists’ use of the roadway providing an incentive to reduce those environmental effects, including climate change;
- make passage more likely by not generating as much political opposition.
The highway system enjoys exclusive use of motor fuel tax revenue; we should retain local add-on general sales tax funds for transit purposes. The ST Board ought to be raising this concern even if RTID does not, given the shared outcome of the proposed ballot measure.

Traffic congestion is inefficient, uncertain, and unfair. It wastes time — for rich and poor alike – and fuel, contributing unnecessarily to GHG emissions. The Sierra Club supports effective traffic congestion management through the use of dynamic tolling of all limited access highways. With pricing that varies based on demand like utility rates or familiar pricing in the market, more vehicles and people could use our limited access highways. Dynamic pricing would induce some trips to shift to less crowded times of the day or to carpools, vanpools, or transit. We urge you to request of the Legislature and our Congressional delegation the necessary state and federal authorities to implement dynamic tolling. The highest priority should be those corridors and their direct alternatives for which mega-projects are currently planned. It is time to price our limited-access highways more similar to the way we price electricity or water.

We appreciate all the quality work that has gone into producing the ST2 plan. However, we feel that a revised prioritization of projects and more Sound Transit influence over the RTID project selection process are needed. The Sierra Club looks forward to working with Sound Transit to improve the ST2 proposal during the public comment period.

Sincerely,
Transportation Committee
Sierra Club Cascade Chapter

Posted by transpchair | August 31, 2007 6:35 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).